Many talk about biblical passages and culture, but you don’t find too many who discuss how we understand and apply biblical passages to our daily lives after listening to a sermon or reading a biblical text.
In preparing a sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 awhile back, I couldn’t help but notice how so many Christians and non-Christians are used to the great dichotomy that exists between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God, or the power of the world and the power of God. There are some who hear a sermon from 1 Corinthians and respond by a polite nod of the head while there are others who hear the sermon and speak rather highly of it shortly after, but many seem to listen to the sermon and the big idea of the sermon while neglecting to apply or put forth an effort in edifying their own lifestyle after having listened to the sermon.
How many of us have listened to a sermon and thoroughly enjoyed the content of the message, but at the end of the day we have not sought to reshape our own broken lifestyle to better imitate Christ in response to the message?
The sermon is not something to be isolated and placed in a corner of the week while we live out our lives as we see fit, the sermon is meant to apply to every day of the week and every day thereafter for the rest of our lives. A sermon is not something to be forgotten especially if we do indeed hold to a high authority of scripture. Evangelical or Catholic, we have a responsibility beyond merely going to church and a responsibility beyond merely listening to the sermon. We have a responsibility to obey scripture because it is the revealed Word of God to man, and we are called not to be good Christians but rather to be good imitators of our common namesake – Jesus Christ. We are to be little images of God wherever we are through our imitation.
We are like 45 degree angle mirrors, all of us who are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to reflect that divine light of our Lord via heaven to earth, the world, all peoples. Not only do we reflect that glorious light to the world, but we reflect that light back to the source and in so doing give God the glory for all we say, think, hear, and do. (Yes, the 45 degree mirrors bit is rather Rob Bell of me. Forgive me. lol)
We live in a world today so often divided by entertainment that a Sunday sermon turns into nothing more than an added block to a weekly schedule and the preaching nothing more than a glorified show directed not toward God, but to the individual. The individual ought not to be lost, but the sermon is not about us, it is from God, for God, on behalf of God, through the Spirit of God, and ultimately for the mission of God. The beginning and end of scripture is not in ourselves, but with God. This focus on the internal apart from the heart surgery that Jeremiah prophecies concerning the Spirit of God is nothing more than another lie the world feeds us. The world boasts of inner contentment and happiness and peace, but apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ and a life poured out for God and others.
As a result of our culture induced Christianity in the Western world, many of us are guilty of attending church out of a need to satisfy a requirement, a need to feel better about ourselves, a need to socialize, a need for acceptance, or a need to be simply entertained. God calls all Christians and non-Christians for that matter to be more than self-serving entertainment craving people desiring more to feel good about ourselves. We are called to pour ourselves out for one another and for God as Jesus Christ who is God and man became incarnated taking on flesh while being the eternal preexistent Word (Logos) emptied himself our of love for us by being poured out upon the cross in order that we might live righteous, holy, Christ-centered lives. We are called to do nothing less than lay down our life for our own worst enemy if there was such a need for it. That reveals the extent that we are to give of ourselves, down to our very lives.
Now, how is it that so many Christians can listen to a sermon, enjoy the message, agree with the message, yet, not begin to seek to humble themselves before the church and others while edifying their own lifestyles?
Jesus Christ is our Lord and along with Paul, we are called to boast in Jesus and him crucified. A desire for wisdom and power while seeking to hold the cross as secondary (May it never be!) or subordinate (May it never be!) is nothing more than boasting in ourselves and our own capacity for wisdom over that of God. It is returning to the Garden of Eden and committing the very sin that got us all in this mess to begin with. It’s not a matter of abandoning reason and our God-given abilities to be thinking, intellectual Christians. However, if our daily lives are being reshaped more by the music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the daily activities we submit ourselves to when we aren’t at church worshipping God, then the answer could be that something in our lives is at least a little more valuable to us than God. The trouble is that this is where many Christians fall short and I am no greater than the least. If we are not being continually molded by the Spirit unconsciously while also making a conscious effort to edify our lifestyle to the image of Christ, then we are at best walking hypocrites and at worst not worshipping the God of Christianity but a false god.
It is my prayer that we all seek to not only listen to the content of scripture, but seek to deepen our faith and knowledge of God by submitting ourselves to the Word fully by bringing it to life in our own lives. May we all be better imitators of Jesus Christ by living lives marked by Christ and not by ourselves. May we not be included among those whom the prophet Isaiah describes as hearing and seeing yet not understanding with our hearts. Amen.